It is a short ride from Nha Trang to Da Lat and a beautiful one. I spent a few hours driving through the mountains and had a welcome respite from the heat. Da Lat is a slowly crumbling French mountain town, that just happens to be in Vietnam. I am told much of it resembles Paris. But since I have not been to Paris, I could not say. I stayed in Da Lat for 2 nights and it was pretty chill. I took a walk around the lake and went to the Flower Gardens. De Lat is famous for its flowers, which it exports all over the world. It has a climate similar to Napa, so of course they grow grapes and make wine. Sadly I did not try the wine.
After I got out of the mountains and was headed for Saigon, the towns started to meld together and soon the road turned into one long town with no green space. I started early as it was a long riding day and arrived in Saigon at my hostel in the middle of the afternoon. Thanks to the help of my trusty GPS app, I did not get lost once! I’d been to Saigon for a few days in 2009, but I was being a tourist and only say a small part of the city.
On the drive in I started loosing my cool with the other folks on the road. My “irritation with other drivers” meter was in the red! I had been thinking about selling my bike in Saigon and taking the bus through Cambodia. Getting highly irritated was the like seeing a neon light saying, “sell!” I can not drive safely once I start getting too irritated, I start taking chances, going too fast and I become a road hazard, which is a challenging thing to do in Vietnam.
The next day I wrote my for sale ad and posted it on various on line classified sites including Craigslist. And I waited. And waited some more. 5 days later, the only responses I had received were from people who could not read my clearly written add and thought I was in Hanoi. I started getting nervous. Should I lower the price? Should I try to find a charity to give away my expensive toy to? Should I stop thinking about how much money I’ll loose if I don’t sell the bike and go have an ice cream? Yes! And what an ice cream it was. There’s a french ice cream shop in Saigon that turns ice cream into art.
On the 6th day I got a bite, and another and a third! An American Expat was going to come by after work and then a French guy wanted to come by earlier. I let the American guy know he’d have to get here sooner if we wanted a shot. The American called first, after all. The French guy showed up, gave the bike a once over, took it for a ride and said he wanted to by it, but that he had to go get the money. I said yes. Then the American showed up with cash. I took his cash and called the French guy and gave him the bad news. Since I did not ride as long as I had planned, I ended up paying about what I would have for a rental after I took a loss selling the bike. Maybe I could have got more but a week in Saigon was enough.
I did have some good times in Saigon. I made a Vietnamese friend in Hanoi and she lives in Saigon. We spent a Saturday afternoon together, eating, riding around on her scooter and had a nice walk. When we met, she was interviewing with the Italian embassy for a visa, which they granted her. After we hung out, she had to go out of town on business and then flew to Italy. Yen, I hope you had a great time in Italy, if you are still reading my blog, drop me an email, I only have your mobile number.
The night I sold my bike I went out and celebrated. There is an Argentine steak house that serves steak from Australia and the US. So I dropped about 1.5 million dong ($70) on dinner and drinks. I sat at the bar and hit it off with the bartenders. After I ordered my first drink, they started making me custom drinks and after dinner they were pouring me shots of home made caramel vodka, on the house. It was the first time I had steak in months. I decided to do one touristy thing and on my last day I went to the former US embassy, it was a neat building. It’s easy to forget that Vietnam is a communist country, then sometimes you remember.
Seven weeks is the longest I’ve spent in one country outside the US with the exception of Italy, when I was teaching and taking classes there in the late ‘90’s. It was great to see a country from top to bottom and go places most westerners will never see. I love traveling off the beaten trail and on this trip there were times when I was off the trail all together. Vietnam, specifically, Saigon is a place I could live.